Retiree’s bump up in Social Security isn’t automatic at death of spouse

The surviving spouse of a Social Security recipient is entitled to a “bump up” in their benefits if the deceased spouse received a higher monthly benefit than the survivor was receiving. Typically, the funeral director notifies the Social Security Administration about the death.

Don’t assume that this notification suffices to preserve eligiblity for the widow’s benefit. It doesn’t.  The widow or widower still has to file an application for survivor’s benefits. It needs to be filed quickly — benefits aren’t retroactive more than 60 days prior to the date of application.  Here’s the form.

The application can only be done two ways —  in person (when Social Security offices re-open after the COVID-19 pandemic eases) or by telephone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or the local office. It cannot be done online, even though other applications are filed on line.

Social Security provide an array of benefits to surviving spouses. In addition to the potential bump up for the retiree, a surviving spouse can receive a lump-sum death benefit of $255.00 provided that the spouses were living together. A  spouse who wasn’t insured under his/her own earnings record can receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60. If the surviving spouse qualifies for retirement benefits on his/her own record, they can receive spousal benefits starting at age 60 and switch to their own retirement benefit without the early-receipt penalty as early as age 62. If the surviving spouse is disabled and the disability started before or within seven years of the worker’s death, s/he can receive benefits as early as age 50 based on the deceased spouse’s earnings record.

All of these potential family benefits are, of course, good reasons for workers to be “on the grid” and paying into the Social Security system.  And when there’s been a major family life incident,  contact the SSA to see what benefits are available to you and your dependents

Call us for advice on senior care planning including wills, trusts and estate administration … 732-382-6070

Remembering Our Lonesome Elders

This is my tribute to the elders in our communities who have been so terribly affected by  the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Untouchable; Alone (April 16, 2020 Central Jersey)
(c) Linda S. Ershow-Levenberg , all rights reserved

Untouchable. Alone. He wants his daughter. Every morning she brought coffee and some news.
She would tell him of the books that she was reading, trim his hair, or polish up his shoes.

The cherry blossoms burst in bloom without him.
He couldn’t leave his home to touch those petals with his hands.
The daffodils and hyacinths a memory.
He gazes out the window, but he just can’t understand.

Untouchable. Alone. He wants his daughter. Parcels just get left outside his door.
A step or two, he must sit down, so tired.
The empty streets are yawning; no one’s working any more.

The television’s off – it was relentless. He turns for comfort to his magazines.
Turning all these pages, he can travel –
to Calcutta, to the Tetons or to New Orleans
to Calcutta, to the Tetons or to New Orleans

Still, untouchable. Alone. He wants his daughter.
Every day he tries to find a way to make it new.
There’s solace in the sunshine in the morning.
And he’s breathing. He will find a way to see this through.
He’s breathing. He will find a way to see this through.


Let’s hope that sooner rather than later our elders will again be able to enjoy in-person visits from their friends, grandchildren and children without fear and risk.


Call us about your elder care concerns …… 732-382-6070

New Jersey provides portal for complaints about Nursing Home Care

To say that the care-delivery system in New Jersey’s nursing homes in 2020 has been fraught with problems and perils is, of course, an understatement. Certain facilities are just now beginning to admit new residents, and many new procedures for infection control and care delivery have to be put in place. The NJ Attorney General announced on April 16th that he is embarking on an investigation into the way that the skilled nursing facilities responded to or handled care delivery in response to COVID-19 infection. Now the State has created a form for people to use to provide complaints or information that could be useful to this investigation.  The form is a fillable PDF that you can submit electronically by clicking “submit” at the end of the form. Here it is: :

It’s vital that the public file this important information so that the investigation has access to a broad spectrum of first-hand information from members of the public.


Vigilance by concerned family members is even more vital than ever when it comes to the long term care and security of their frail elderly loved ones. For help and advice, call us at … 732-382-6070

Applications for Medicaid/MLTSS are still being accepted at the County Boards of Social Services

Increasing numbers of frail elderly are trying to arrange for care in their houses or apartments because admission to nursing facilities is so problematic at this time. About one third of the state’s skilled nursing facilities are considered to be incapable of appropriately isolating COVID-19 patients, and have been  barred from any new admissions. Of course, arranging for home care is increasing difficult due to a serious shortage of trained personnel who are capable and willing — understandably — to go into a home setting, due to the risk of infection. Geriatric care managers (Aging and Life Care Specialists) can be very useful in establishing a home care arrangement, even in these trying times.

The Medicaid/MLTSS program can provide home and community -based services to financially-eligible individuals who are over 65 or are disabled and who require hands-on care and supervision with 3 or more of their activities of daily living. It is necessary to contact the Office of Community Choice Options (OCCO) to order the Pre-Admission Screening (PAS). Here’s the latest list of offices and contact numbers.  MLTSS and OCCO Contact List 3.20.20

Previously, this evaluation took place at the residence of the applicant. Now it is being done by telephone. It’s very important to order the PAS because an applicant must be clinically in need of these long-term care services in order to be approved for Medicaid/MLTSS services. To do so, first the family/caregiver calls the ADRC (Aging Disability Resource Connection) in their county.  The ADRCs are sort of the portal-of-entry to gain access to many different government programs. The ADRC will complete the first telephone screening.  The ADRC will then send their screening to OCCO.  The OCCO nurse will contact the family to review the initial screening and gather additional information.


Office of Community Choice Options:

While awaiting the PAS evaluation, it’s necessary to address the financial eligibility requirements, which are stringent and complex. Legal sandtraps are everywhere in the process. The application is then filed at the local County Board of Social Services once all of those benchmarks have been reached.

Call for advice and assistance with medicaid eligibility, applications and appeals … 732-382-6070

Health Care Proxies and Advance Directives help Doctors in critical care of patients

The New Jersey Department of Health issued a comprehensive statement concerning triage and the care of COVID-19 patients in different kinds of licensed health care facilities. This is one among many directives issued in the past six weeks. Read the directive here: FinalAllocationPolicy4.11.20v2

As the patient is being treated, many decisions need to be made along the way, often in rapid-fire fashion. The patient may not be able to communicate or make decisions. It is very important that patients or potential patients have a signed Advance Directive, or Health Care Power of Attorney (proxy) so that if the patient loses his or her capacity to make medical decisions, they have an authorized person who can communicate with the medical professionals as critical decisions need to be made. Certain treatment will be rendered automatically as a response to the patient’s emergency, but in areas where choices and decisions need to be made, it’s vital that there be a designated person. A well-written advance directive will be explicit and reasonably easy to interpret. Whenever possible, naming several back-ups to the primary Health Care Representative (decision-maker) is preferable because if the primary person cannot be reached or has become ill, having a backup to make a crucial decision is vital. If the patient is incapacitated, it would be their representative who has the discussions with the doctor or nurse pertaining to filling out the POLST formPhysician’s Orders Concerning Life Sustaining treatment — which is now a regular part of hospital practice..

We will continue to monitor developments that affect the delivery of crucial health care to our clients If you have concerns or a problem, call for a telephone consultation with one of our attorneys…. 732-382-6070